Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for September, 2012

Sleeping Beauty

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

This is an image from the pre-tour publicity for Matthew Bourne’s new ballet, Sleeping Beauty (not, note, The Sleeping Beauty, as you are required to say of the ‘real’ ballets – tosh and poppycock).

I have never embraced the vampiric literature and film genres that have swept and appear to still be sweeping the nation, but I read that this new ballet will feature vampires amongst other creatures.

The way Matthew Bourne treats ballet just amazes and delights me.  The vision and theatre, the daring and sheer energy – just stunning.  His Cinderella is still the best ballet I have ever seen, traditional or modern.

I am beyond excited to be going to see this when it is released.  And just look at the pictures! Imagine the knitting design inspiration this will yield!

Look what Lisa made!

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Ages ago, I designed a little nursery blanket, felted Rowan Scottish Tweed 4 Ply, with bars and bobbles on it.  This was published in Shibori Knitted Felt.  However, the yarn was discontinued ages ago.  When some friends wanted to knit the design (bigger, for grown-ups), we – mainly they – experimented with various options and in the end, decided that Rowan Felted Tweed was the best option, felted at 40 degrees, not 60 as in the original pattern.

My friend Lisa made one and here it is.  It’s bigger than mine ever was, and will be a lovely addition to her sitting room.  She has edged it after felting in both the shades of FT that she used.  I love it.  She also had a little ‘help’ from one of her cats…bless.


It started in Rio Frio…

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

My holiday dodging – it kind of started in Rio Frio (a village in Spain, famous for its trout). My name is Alison and I am a holiday dodger.

It didn’t really start then, but ‘It Started In Rio Frio’ just appealed to me as it sounds like a Bob Hope film, and also, it was the place where I got or at least first noticed one of my mandatory holiday illnesses.  I almost always get some illness while on holiday.  Even in Skye, I had two epic migraine headaches.  It’s really weird.

I have a complex relationship with holidays.  It’s strange for me to observe people just happily booking up a trip to somewhere, maybe overseas (a whole other area of holiday complexity), not worrying about it, not doing any of the things I do.

On one hand, I like the idea of a holiday.  Well, who can argue with the concept?  The ideal concept, I mean.  You spend an enjoyable few hours/days deciding where to go, you blithely book the holiday, you await its arrival and you go, leaving cares and work and routine behind you.  Once en-route, the journey is all part of the fun, and as soon as you arrive you may strike up happy friendships with other people on holiday, but you will certainly have a good time.

Except that the journey isn’t part of the fun, it’s just the bits you endure in order to have the holiday.  At airports my anxiety levels, with their default setting of ‘high alert’, rocket to unheard of new heights, manifesting itself in an inability to sit down for more than five minutes, focus on a book or allow anyone to talk because if they do, I go:  SHHHHHH!  in case they make me miss An Important Announcement.  And I am just so deeply anti-social that the idea of striking up a life-long friendship with someone whose only link to me is the place we randomly chose for a fortnight in August just fills me with shyness and dread.  I can hear that sniggering at the back.  But I am shy, really, very.

One of my friends, when she hears of a holiday we may have looming just says:  poor Mark.  But in fact, it’s not my fault, and I’d (generally) rather stay at home with the dogs and my knitting and my books.

Some friends amaze me by always managing to ‘discover’ a little, formerly unknown, restaurant (though to really qualify for ‘best eating discovery’ this place must be termed taverna or locals’ cafe).  How these formerly unknown places scratched out a living until Deidre and Hugh arrived this summer and discovered them is not clear.  Unless, of course, you also visit the same place, following Hugh’s insistent prompting and find that it is not in fact clinging to the side of a fragrant pine forest, but is nestling between O’Leary’s Pie ‘n’ Mash House and a lurid nightclub; which you will only ever see closed and grey-looking in the blazing sunshine due to the fact that it opens as you are hoping for sleep and closes when you finally give up the unequal struggle with awake-ness and get up.

Others undertake research worthy of a PhD in order to mine the last nuggets of tourist gold out of their holiday.  I am in this camp – if I am in any known camp, which I don’t think I am.  But when I have been on overseas holidays, I have been seized with an urgent desire to Visit All The Stuff.  I usually fail, but in trying I manage a fairly decent holiday, because I am busy.  Could this be part of my problem with holidays?  I do not thrive in what might be termed a beach holiday setting.  In fact, here is layer of complexity number one:  I really don’t want to mingle with – or even see – any people.

Having once ‘done’ a proper beach holiday (not you, North Wales, lovely as you are, no I mean Abroad), I reject this genre of holiday torture.  Not only could I see the people, they could see me.  Some of them took almost all their clothes off – and I’m not talking Bridgwater on a rare warm weekend in August when the levels of inappropriate nakedness are verging on a national outrage.  No, I mean literally almost the whole lot.  God help you if, in search of privacy you creep round the gritty rocks.  Because behind the gritty rocks are other people who have in fact gone the whole hog and got all naked.  Oh dear.  That noise you’d hear a lot if you were unfortunate enough to holiday with me – the insistent drumming:  it’s the beating of retreats.

Let’s explore another problem.  The proper beach holiday was boring.  Boredom.  I am almost never bored, at home.  How could you be?  There is so much to do, some of it enjoyable.  I like my house, I like my garden, I like my county, have far too many hobbies, love my friends and miss them if I am away.  But on holiday, there stretches before me the prospect of not enough to do, or at best, repetition of things that might be OK once or twice but undertaken daily, leave me in a state of mild panic.

Once, about four years ago, I did manage a sort of miracle holiday experience.  We hired a villa, with a pool, up a mountain in Spain.  The search engine key-words for my ‘ideal’ holiday might read:  luxury, pool, remote, secluded, villa, detached, private, countryside, deserted, wild…it WAS!  It was just lovely, we had no neighbours, the pool was amazing, there were mountains and eagles and the sun shone every day.  Also, and I think it is an important factor, I was injured.  I was not able to walk much at all having torn the ligaments in my foot in a running fall.  In fact, two weeks before we were due to go, I was not able to walk at all.  Anyway, I was hobbling and healing, but the Olympic-standard endurance sightseeing we had planned, would be limited to none, basically.  Thus, after a day or two when I was still fighting the limitations of my luxury prison, I relaxed into a sort of trance-like acceptance, which quickly evolved into mesmerising pleasure.

Days drifted past and looking back, I remember a sort of ‘typical’ day, but none really stand out.  I really did lose track of time and place.  Days of swimming and dozing were punctuated only by the odd visits to the hypermarket about 20 miles drive away down a death-slide road towards the coast.  Odd to say that this became a sort of highlight, but it did.  We’d come ‘home’ with such lovely things to eat and drink, and much as we enjoyed the trips to this chilly, giant supermarket and the wandering and wondering in the many packed, exotic isles, we always parked the hire car behind its gates and retreated to the house with a sense of relief and achievement.  I remember vividly what I knitted – socks, mainly.

Leaving after two weeks was a shock and a wrench.  I wish I could recapture that holiday.

It was an unusual holiday for me though, no action unless you count the three swims a day, the dazed knitting and the food shopping.  Which doesn’t count, really.  Paris last year was more ‘normal’.  That is to say, I was in pretty much panic-mode beforehand, I have no idea why, got ill while there, loved the city, did far too much and also obsessed for the entire 7 days about if the taxi we booked for the early morning trip back to the airport would arrive on time.  To be sure that this wouldn’t be a problem, I booked a taxi for about 2 hours earlier than needed, then staked out the nearest walkable taxi-rank, in case he didn’t come and then left the apartment 15 minutes before he was due to arrive to stand on the street corner, at dawn. Because  standing on the street peering into the loosening gloom is basically the only way to make sure that what you wish for will arrive, right?

He was on time.  Thus giving us a lot of opportunities to explore the airport.

This year we went to Yorkshire for a week.  I love a bit of bleak and moody, me.  I used to go there quite a lot when I worked for Rowan Yarns, but I only really went to Holmfirth and Huddersfield.  We went North.  We went remote.  It was very lovely, we kept super-busy, because keeping moving is a great way to stay warm – and I do think that a light frost in August is a bonus, right? The best bits were the runs I managed on 3 days, up, down and alongside the reservoirs and dales.  Seriously beautiful.